Germany to Help Finance Four New Israeli Naval Ships (Reuters)
Germany plans to finance part of the cost of four new corvette ships for the Israeli navy, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.
100 Syrian Soldiers Killed as Islamists Capture Military Base (Reuters)
Around 100 Syrian soldiers and 80 Islamist fighters were killed during a two-day battle in which insurgents took the Wadi al-Deif military base near the main highway linking Aleppo with Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday. The base has been surrounded by insurgents for two years.
See also State Dept: U.S.-Backed Rebels Are Never Going to Defeat Assad Militarily - John Hudson (Foreign Policy)
A senior State Department official said on Wednesday that U.S.-backed Syrian rebels will not be able to topple the Assad regime in the foreseeable future, despite a Pentagon program to train and equip 5,000 rebels per year.
"We do not see a situation in which the rebels are able to remove him from power," Brett McGurk told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In recent weeks, Syria's moderate opposition has continued to lose ground in the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
Video: Why Can't We Have a "Conversation" about Militant Islam? (Lawfare Project)
We see art that critiques Christianity, and musicals that satirize Mormonism. Virtually every religion is open to a conversation - except Islam.
Talk about Islam, particularly militant Islam, and it's met instead with censorship, intimidation, lawsuits, and even violence.
When Major Nidal Hasan went on a murdering spree at Fort Hood, the U.S. government classified his act of terrorism as workplace violence, with no mention of him screaming, "Allah is great," as he gunned down 13 fellow soldiers.
References to Islam and Jihad have been removed from the FBI's training manuals.
Korea to Buy Four Israeli Heron Drones (Chosunilbo-South Korea)
Seoul has chosen Israel Aerospace Industries' Heron-1 unmanned aerial vehicle to fly over the northwesternmost islands and to monitor North Korea.
The Israeli drone can stay airborne for more than two days and is equipped with an electro optical camera and synthetic aperture radar.
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- Israel, Palestinians Gird for Showdown over UN Resolution on West Bank Withdrawal - Carol Morello and William Booth
Israel and the Palestinians are girding for a showdown at the UN this week over a resolution that would recognize a Palestinian state and demand an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank in less than two years. The Palestinian leadership announced that it will submit a resolution to the Security Council on Wednesday, but it is likely doomed from the start. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday that the measure does not yet have the support of a majority of Security Council members.
Trying to avert a confrontation over the resolution, Secretary of State John Kerry summoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a three-hour meeting in Rome on Monday. While Netanyahu declined to say whether Kerry had promised that the U.S. would use its veto, he said, "I very much appreciate the secretary of state's efforts to prevent a deterioration in the region." Netanyahu added: "I said that the attempts of the Palestinians and of several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel. Therefore, we will strongly oppose this." (Washington Post)
See also Israel Seeks U.S. Block of Palestinian Statehood Drive - Lesley Wroughton
After meeting with Secretary of State Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told reporters, "Our expectation is that the United States will stand by its position for the past 47 years that a solution to the conflict will be achieved through negotiations, and I do not see a reason for this policy to change." U.S. officials have indicated that Washington did not find the Palestinian draft resolution acceptable. They said there was no consensus among the European powers on the best way to proceed. UN Middle East peace process envoy Robert Serry said any resolution outlining the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian final status agreement was "not a substitute for a genuine peace process that will need to be negotiated between both parties." (Reuters)
- ISIS Regaining Ground in Western Iraq - Hamza Mustafa
Islamic State fighters have recaptured several villages in Iraq's Anbar Province.
The government's failure to "send sufficient weapons to the tribes fighting there who ran out of ammunition" has led to the fall of strategic cities such as Hit and Haditha, Anbar provincial council member Adhal Al-Fahdawi said.
"The government's lack of interest and support" has enabled ISIS to infiltrate the area.
The new ISIS advances have cut off a key supply route between the province and Baghdad, Anbar tribal leader Sheikh Naim Al-Kaoud said. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
See also Islamic State Overruns Shiite Militia Position near Samarra in Iraq - Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss
Over the past week, the Islamic State has launched a series of attacks against Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shiite militias near the city of Samarra. The attacks included suicide bombings executed by foreign jihadists from France, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been spotted numerous times in Samarra directing military operations there. (Long War Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Palestinian Suicide Attack in Tel Aviv Thwarted - Yoav Zitun
Five Palestinians from the West Bank who planned terror attacks in Tel Aviv and other cities were arrested in the past two months. Yasmin Shaaban, 31, from Jenin, was planning to impersonate a pregnant Jewish woman, wearing a suicide vest. She was to try to receive an entry permit to Israel on medical grounds in order to commit a suicide bombing. Cell members were in contact with an operative in Gaza who guided them in preparing the suicide vest.
The Palestinians also confessed to planning a shooting attack, an attempt to bomb a bus full of soldiers, and kidnapping a soldier.
- Congress Warns Palestinians on UN Actions - Michael Wilner
The U.S. will eliminate funding to the Palestinian Authority should it move forward with a bid for statehood at the UN without Israeli consent, according to a new spending bill passed by Congress over the weekend. The law also requires the State Department to cut funding to the PA should it fail to combat incitement to violence against Israel, or if Hamas is found to be exerting "undue influence" on the PA.
- From Sydney to Rome, Until Islam Rules the World - Ben-Dror Yemini
During a solidarity ceremony with the Islamic State, children aged 6 to 13 proclaimed: "One Ummah without the West; until Islam rules there will be no rest." The ceremony took place in a suburb of Sydney and was documented by Australian 7News television. The English-speaking children, guided by adult jihadists, are receiving an education similar to the education in Gaza. The goal is not to free the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The goal is to free Sydney from the chains of democracy.
It turns out that there is no need for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to nurture hatred towards democracy and the West. The jihadists in Sydney are also calling for the death of President Obama. (Ynet News)
- Germans Rise Up Against Islamization - Soeren Kern
In the eastern German city of Dresden on Dec. 8, more than 10,000 people defied freezing temperatures to express their displeasure with Germany's lenient asylum policies.
Germany - which is facing an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers, including many from Muslim countries - is now the second most popular destination in the world for migrants, after the U.S.
Many are taking advantage of Europe's open borders to claim asylum in Germany after first passing through Italy and Austria. Bavarian officials estimate that at least 33,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the state during 2014, twice the number of arrivals in 2013. The writer is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Strategic Studies Group.
- Israeli Tech Startups Attract Chinese Investors - Orr Hirschauge
Chinese executives and investors say the tech startup hub of Tel Aviv is fast becoming a frequent stop in China's global hunt for companies, startups and investments. They are joining American, European and Russian investors who have been shuttling in and out of Israel for years. Over the next two years, China is expected to surpass the U.S. as Israel's biggest collaborator in the number of joint government-backed development projects, said Avi Luvton, executive director for the Asia Pacific region at the Israeli Industry Center for R&D. Israel's National Economic Council expects tech deals between Chinese and Israeli firms to total $300 million this year alone, up $50 million from 2013.
(Wall Street Journal)
Will U.S. Veto UN Resolution on Palestinian State? - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
- With the Palestinians pushing for a UN Security Council resolution that would unilaterally recognize their independence in the territory won by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, the U.S. administration must decide whether it is truly in its interests to facilitate an end run around the peace process it has sponsored.
- The PA claims that the peace negotiations promoted by the U.S. over the years has not brought them closer to gaining a state and that only by having the international community force its hand will Israel ever be willing to retreat to the 1967 lines. But this campaign is about avoiding a negotiated end to the conflict, not finding a shortcut to one.
- The Palestinians have been offered statehood in Gaza, almost all of the West Bank, and a share of Jerusalem three times by the Israelis in 2000, 2001, and 2008. The obstacle wasn't Israeli settlements or intransigence, but the fact that Abbas knows it would be political suicide for him to sign any deal that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one, no matter where its borders were drawn.
- What the Palestinians want is a way to avoid negotiations that would obligate them to end the conflict with Israel as the price of their independence.
The problem with negotiations isn't that the Israelis have been intransigent, but that no matter how much Obama and Kerry tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians, a solution must in the end require them to make peace.
- The UN resolution they want would merely obligate the Israelis to retreat from more territory without any assurances that what happened when they gave up every inch of Gaza in 2005 - the creation of a terrorist Hamas state - would not happen again in the more strategic and larger West Bank.
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